By Ismaila Chafe
Prof. Yakubu Mahmud, the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has explained that foreign observers for the 2019 general elections would fund their activities, but would be provided with kits.
He said in Abuja on Friday that the commission had no prepared budgetary allocation for international observers coming to monitor the elections.
Some Civil Society Organisations, including the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), had frowned at the INEC’s budget for the 2019 general elections.
HURIWA described the INEC’s budget as “fraudulent, criminal and highly unsustainable. The budget for payment of foreign observers lacks credibility and should be discarded.”
It also said: “The N4.614 billion classified as miscellaneous expenses is fraudulent and must never be approved just as the win components of N134.427 billion for election operation cost and N22.660 billion for election administrative cost are duplication meant to conceal the cash that would inevitably be siphoned.’’
However, the INEC chairman insisted that there was no such budget for the international observers as being peddled in some quarters.
“I have had this question that we have prepared budget for international observers, there is no such thing. There is no line in the budget for international observers.
“What we have provided for are the kits, you know the jackets, caps, publication, that we give to international observers, the stickers that are fixed on their cars to be identified on Election Day.
“This is the standard practice. Each country that organises elections provides these facilities for those who monitor elections.
“But their accommodation, transportation will be borne by various election monitoring groups and not by the Nigerian government.’’
On possibility of postponing the 2019 general elections in view of the delay in the passage of the INEC’s budget for the elections by the National Assembly, Mahmud said there were no conditions under which elections should be postponed.
He said: “Under section 26 of the Electoral Act, the date is formed and fixed, February 16, 2019.
“We issued the timetable way in advance for the very first time in the history of our nation; citizens of Nigeria know when elections will take place one year in advance. It has never happen before.
“Secondly, also for the very first time in the history of our country, that citizens know the budget of the electoral commission, that budget has never been defended before the National Assembly, as citizens know line by line how much the commission proposed, what the money is going to be spent on.
“I think I am very happy with this process.’’(NAN)